Ever wonder what's the difference in a competition tea? What's so special about it? Is it worth the price? We did a taste comparison of our competition award-winning and regular offering of Dong Ding Oolong and note the variations in preparation, appearance, and flavor. Read on to find out the difference!
We compared Eco-Cha's spring and winter batches of Dong Ding Oolong Tea, along with an award-winning batch from a winter tea competition. Our Dong Ding Oolong comes from a family run farm in Yonglong Village in central Taiwan. The father/son team have been consistent prize winners in their local competition for many years. Below is a photo of the son, proud winner of the Top 2% award in last spring's competition. He also received Top 8% Award in the winter competition.
Our Award Winning Dong Ding Oolong Tea is from the same harvest as our current winter batch of Dong Ding Oolong. They are simply two different days of the same harvest — one of which was chosen to enter the winter competition. Preparation for competition involves removing the the stems protruding from the tightly rolled leaves, and roasting them a bit more extensively. It was quite interesting to taste the difference between these two batches of the same harvest, as well as how they compared to the previous spring harvest.
One of the most immediately noticeable differences is in the appearance of the brewed tea from the two winter batches. The competition tea has a more transparent bright golden orange color. The standard production has more of a reddish/orange color with a deeper luminescence. The maker of this tea confirmed that the difference in color and transparency reflects a level of uniform drying and curing. The competition tea was roasted without stems, allowing for optimal uniformity in the roast level. Leaves with stems may need more pushing in the roast to achieve a balance.
Award Winning Dong Ding Oolong Tea has all stems removed before roasting.
The competition tea has a smoother, more balanced and integrated flavor profile with a more subtle, yet complex finish. The standard production has a bolder character with more distinct flavors including foresty, smoky, and sweet notes. The comparative characters can really be seen as a difference in refinement. The competition tea is more refined, but almost demands a sophisticated palate to fully appreciate it. There is no missing the exceptionally smooth, balanced character of the competition brew however!
The spring batch is more fruity and tangy by comparison, reflecting a difference in the level of oxidation. It tastes more oxidized and less roasted. It has a substance to the aroma coming off the brewed leaves as well as in the brewed tea that sets it apart from the winter batches. Its character reflects the season that produced it.
Above is the Yonglong/Fenghuang Community as seen from Dong Ding Mountain in Lugu, Taiwan. These three place names are the original source of Taiwan's traditionally made Dong Ding Oolong Tea. The local tea competition is held each spring and winter, where only residents of these three villages are allowed to participate. Below is a shot of Qi Lin Lake, located at the foot of Dong Ding Mountain, viewed from Yonglong Village.
As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in competition-level tea versus a regular offering, even though they came from the same harvest. Seasonal harvest of the same tea can also give different results. We encourage you to do your own taste comparisons of variations of the same tea, as it really is an educational as well as enjoyable experience. What differences in harvests have you noticed in your teas? Let us know in the comment section below!
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